Ian Buruma has written a profile of Tariq Ramadan for the New York Times Magazine. I would call it a useful essay which gives a broad overview of Ramadan’s ideas about integration of Muslims into western society. While Buruma lists the “charges” against Ramadan leveled by the neocon and anti-Jihadist intellectuals, he doesn’t seem to “buy” them in any serious way. In general, I’d say it was a conscientious effort to introduce Ramadan to a U.S. intellectual audience.
But one aspect of the essay really rankled. Ramadan talks to his interviewer about his uneasy relationship with both the Bush Administration and its Jewish allies. In this case, he refers to an encounter with Jack Rosen, the wealthy Bushite who has co-opted the American Jewish Congress for his own political agenda:
Ramadan himself says that it was because of his views on Israel and on U.S. policy in Iraq that he was deprived of his visa to teach in the U.S. He told me: “I was asked to take part in a dialogue in Paris with representatives of American Jewish organizations, including Jack Rosen, head of the American Jewish Congress. It turned out to be less of a dialogue than an interview about my opinions on the Palestinian conflict. Rosen promised to talk to President Bush. But after this interview, I knew I would never get a visa.”
This might sound like just the kind of conspiracy theory anti-Semites tend to indulge in.
Buruma clearly knows very little about how the American Jewish communal leadership operates. Nor does he know much about how Jack Rosen wields power. The idea that Rosen, in this supposed “dialogue,” intended all along to pummel Ramadan for information that could be used by the Bushites to deny him a visa is ENTIRELY believable.
And here is where Buruma really fell into an intellectual mud puddle:
But unlike some Islamic activists, Ramadan has never expressed any hostility to Jews in general. There is no question that he is ferociously anti-Zionist. He sees this as part of his resistance to colonialism. A glance at his Web site shows precisely where he stands. “The dignity of the Palestinians is to resist, ours is to denounce. … That means denouncing fears as much as the unjust and wretched policies which continue to kill an entire people in an occupied territory.”
“Ferociously anti-Zionist?” Really. Let’s go over the quotation he uses to buttress this claim. Why is “denouncing…the unjust and wretched policies which continue to kill an entire people in an occupied territory” anti-Zionist? This is truly feeble journalism and Buruma should be ashamed. He’s falling into the same arguments used by folk like David Harris and the AJCommittee, Abe Foxman at the ADL, and Alan Dershowitz: if you denounce the Occupation then you are anti-Zionist. Who says? I’m a progressive Zionist and I denounce the Occupation.
I’m not asking you accept my refutation because I said so. Here’s an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine:
FP: You’ve said that you believe that Israel has the right to exist. Do you hope that one day, Israel will become part of a broader Middle Eastern common market? Is that the solution?
TR: My point is that Israel is here. I hope beyond that. I want [Israel] to be an open society where there is equal citizenship for all people. This is what I am advocating, and in that way, of course, it will be part of an open market. It will be part of the reality of the region. But my hope is not just for Israel. I want Egypt, Jordan, and other countries to promote the same universal values…. In every country it shouldn’t be [that] if you are a Muslim or Jew, you have more rights than others. Let us be consistent. When I say there are second-class citizens in Israel, I can say exactly the same for Egypt…. And I’m saying it for Saudi Arabia, where there are not even citizens who are not Muslims…
What do I want for the future of Israel and the Muslims and the Arabs? It’s to live together. It’s to promote the society where we are equal citizens. Then we live together. What does it mean, this wall? It means that you are not me and this is just a symbol of two fears living together, not two people…. The best way to protect the Israelis is to understand that the Palestinians have rights and we have to respect them.…
Does wanting Israel to be a society in which Jews and Muslims have equal rights mean you are anti-Zionist? Does opposing the egregious discrimination and economic injustice suffered by Israel’s Arab minority mean you are anti-Zionist? Since when?
Really, Buruma–does a man who says “the best way to protect the Israelis is to understand the Palestinians have rights and we have to respect them” sound anti-Zionist? Not to me.